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Fainting in Healthy People May Be First Sign of Heart Trouble
Date:12/12/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Fainting isn't fun. For those who have ever suddenly and briefly lost consciousness, it's a disconcerting situation that typically triggers a thorough medical workup. Unfortunately, it's often tough for physicians to determine just what caused a first fainting episode.

A large new Danish study provides a nationwide picture of how one-time fainters fare over several years. The researchers found these people were 74 percent more likely to eventually be admitted to the hospital for heart attack or stroke and five times more likely to need a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator at some point in the future.

The study suggests that even low-risk people who faint need to be carefully evaluated.

"Patients, relatives and clinicians should be aware that syncope [fainting] in seemingly healthy people is associated with higher risks of death and that syncope may be a first symptom of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Martin Ruwald, lead author of the study and now a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.

The study was published Dec. 12 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The researchers used the Danish health care system's extensive nationwide databases, which allowed them to include every patient in Denmark who had a first-time admission to an emergency department or hospital due to fainting from 2001 to 2009.

The authors then included only the 40 percent of patients who appeared to have no pre-existing health condition, based on their medical records and the pharmacy database that showed their use of medications for high blood pressure or diabetes.

The researchers tracked those roughly 37,000 people for about 4.5 years, comparing their results to those of more than 185,000 similar people who hadn't fainted. The data
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